The pelicans life in the Park 

Pelicans are mostly associated with relatively large shallow lakes and St James’s Park lake provides an ideal habitat. This semi-wild environment offers natural foraging opportunities within the lake as well as suitable roosting opportunities on the islands and reedbeds and allows the birds to perform natural behaviours.

Pelican on Pelican Rock in St James' s Park LakeThe lake is 4.6 ha and only partially fenced, enabling them to wander as they wish, though they tend not to go far. A wildlife officer is on hand to bring back any pelicans who may stray outside the park boundaries. There are refuges where they can escape the public gaze and have a little privacy. The pelicans particularly enjoy basking and preening on the isolated ‘Pelican Rock’ during the day.

The water quality is good with a recently improved aeration and circulation system in place. The lake was last drained and cleaned in 2009.

Life on the Lake

The pelicans are piscivorous and are offered fish every day by the wildlife officer. They are also offered a vitamin supplement on a regular basis. However, the fish population in the lake also offers them the opportunity to snack between meals and they can often be seen swimming and feeding together.

There is a collection of exotic ducks on the lake as well as the native and visiting birds, although there is no competition for food amongst the birds and they co-habit very well.

Life with the public

Pelican on Pelican Rock in St James' s Park LakeThe pelicans rarely stray far from the lake itself. Depending on the character of each particular bird, they often interact with members of the public at close range. They have been known to sit on the park benches beside human visitors, or on the low railings. The more shy birds keep their distance from members of the public. However the pelicans choose to interact with Park visitors, these impressive creatures give amusement, joy and sometimes surprise, to all who wander through the Park.

Life as a pelican

The three new pelicans to the Park are Great White Pelican, (Pelecanus onocrotalus). Also known as the Eastern Pelican, they are naturally found in a wide ranging territory from south east Europe to central Asia and can even be found in Africa, south of the Sahara desert. They are migratory and therefore used to extremes in temperatures and are quite at home in the British climate!

Other interesting facts…

  • They have the second largest wingspan of all living birds (after the great albatrosses) ranging from 226 to 360cm
  • Adults have pure white plumage, a bare pink facial patch around the eye and pinkish legs
  • Males are larger than females, and have a long beak that grows in a downwards arc, as opposed to the shorter, straighter beak of the female
  • The St James's Park pelicans' favourite fish is mackerel, herring and whiting and the birds look out for the wildlife officer every day at feeding time
  • Adult males weigh from 9 to 15kg, whereas females are considerably less bulky and heavy, weighing from 5.4 to 9kg
  • They are well adapted for aquatic life with short strong legs and webbed feet which propel it in water
  • Currently classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List 2006 and the birds are not globally threatened.